Get a bike that’s been dropped once or twice, has cosmetic dings, but doesn’t have a lot of miles. If you get one with <2k miles, little the original owner could have done to it would be really bad. More mileage = more of a chance they never changed the oil. Don't spend a lot of money on your first bike.
Don’t get a new or nice bike as your first bike. Sorry to say but odds are you’ll crash or drop the bike in your first six months of riding. Bikes are unconditionally stable lying on their side! In six months or after your first crash you’ll either like motorcycling and want a better bike, or you won’t like it and you’ll eventually stop riding.
Don’t get a bike you can’t flatfoot at a stop sign. Don’t get a first bike with more than 50hp. Wheelspin and wheelies aren’t things you need to worry about the first time you sneeze while riding. Don’t get a first bike with nice cosmetics or a custom paint job. It won’t look so good after you bin it. The Ninja 250 is a great first bike, and they have good resale value because other people want to learn on them.
Always wear your gear, at a minimum: full-face helmet, jacket, gloves, boots that cover your ankles. There are jeans that have kevlar in them that are good to crash in. You’re going to crash. Plan for the crash. (BTW: it’s not OK to crash, ever)
Your tires always have a certain amount of traction to the pavement. Turning, braking, hard acceleration, uneven pavement, or some liquid between the tire and pavement additively reduce the tire’s traction. If you lose enough traction, the wheels will slip and skid and you will crash.
You can brake 100% when the bike is straight up and down, and only 25% when the bike is leaned over. Yes, you can turn and brake. Do it too much and the wheel stops turning, starts sliding, and you’ll crash. Trail off the brake as you start to turn, and be off when you’re leaning furthest.
Use only the front brake. The rear brake is ornamental. Don’t practice with the rear brake. Don’t think about the rear brake. Your bike only has one brake: the front one.
Look where you want to go. If you see a bump or a squirrel or some oil, don’t look at it! If you go into a corner too hot and you think you’re not going to make it, look at the exit and lean the bike more. The bike is soooo much more capable than you think. You can almost always lean further and make the corner.
Don’t ever think that you can stand up the bike mid-corner and make it out alive. This is a trap. You won’t make it. You’ll ride off the road and immediately crash in the gravel and dirt and ditch and they won’t find your body for days. Look at the exit, turn more, gently squeeze your brakes.
Don’t ride when it’s wet. If you do, don’t ride over white painted road signs. If you do, don’t brake. If you’re riding in the wet, over a painted road marker, while braking, lets all hope that the bike is up and down and you don’t need to turn.
If you do crash, fight it. Let go of the brakes and grab them again. Turn. Kick your inside foot down. Do anything to avoid the crash! If you’re unsuccessful at saving it and you’re about to hit the ground, go limp. I’ve crashed at very high speeds in highly undesirable situations and going limp is my secret method to crashing successfully. When you stop sliding, stay still, you’re still sliding. When you really stop, get out of the road right away!
Cars turning left are the enemy. Any car in any lane turning left is dangerous. Actually, cars anywhere are bad. Develop your spidey sense. Try to think about what other people are doing. Ride just a little faster than everyone else so you’re the one doing the passing. Dominate your lane and don’t share. Never ever leave your lane. Cross double yellows at your peril. Don’t lanesplit until you’ve gotten past your six-month crash window.
Most people drop bikes in parking lots, at stop signs and red lights. Most people lowside when they see something they think they can’t avoid and decide to ‘lay it down’. Tires have more traction than plastic and the bike will always stop faster when the tires are on the pavement.
Practice. Learn how to brake HARD. Learn how to brake so hard the front tire locks and skids. Learn to let off the brake a little bit then squeeze again even harder.
Don’t ride faster than you can see. Imagine you’re riding around a corner with a canyon wall on the inside. You can see 30 feet of your lane ahead of you. Don’t ride faster than you can stop in 30 feet, otherwise what happens when you see the cow standing in the road?
Don’t get sucked into following people who are faster than you. They have better bikes, better skills, and are almost always luckier than you. Don’t ride with squids. Don’t ride with people who talk about chicken strips or their last crash. It’s not ok to crash.